As the months have marched on towards our return to Japan, we have been considering our upcoming work and thinking about what our plans are moving forward. We want to approach this work with a vision supported by plans and goals. Nehemiah sets the kind of example we want to follow. He prayed for God’s blessing and provision (Neh. 1:4-11; 2:4), he set a vision (Neh. 2:5), he considered and prepared for the work (Neh. 2:6-16), he cast the vision before others and gathered help (Neh. 2:17-18), and he got to the work (Neh. 3-6). This is applicable to our upcoming mission.
It’s useful to not only have a vision, but to consider the work and think about the things we can do to help support the vision moving forward. Our vision is to make disciples in Japan – and by that, we mean not simply making converts, but making disciples who are committed to the Lordship of Christ in their own lives and committed to serving his Kingdom interests through the church. We have some broad plans to support that vision, but as we get closer to our departure, we are considering what the work looks like over the course of the first year. Below are some of the areas we’ll be focusing on in year one.
Prayer & Fasting
Nehemiah prayed repeatedly for God’s help in the work and fasted as well. We see this all throughout the Bible – from Moses to Esther to Nehemiah to Jesus and his apostles, prayer and fasting has always been vital for God’s people. That’s because in these activities we show ourselves to be relying upon the hand of the Lord rather than upon our own clever skills and plans. Jesus says that without him we can produce no fruit (John 15:1-11). Proverbs reminds us that our plans are always in the hands of the Lord (Proverbs 16:9). We honor that truth through this spiritual discipline. We need the Spirit of God to be moving in Japan, moving in the church at Matsudo, moving among the people we live near, and moving in our own hearts and lives. Part of how we depend upon his work is by relying on him through prayer and fasting. This is something we seek to do not only as workers ourselves, but with the church in Matsudo, and we would love to have others joining in this with us, even if we are unaware.
For the first year of our work, Leslie’s sermons are going to be focused on the gospel. We’ll begin with a short series entitled, “福音って何?” – “What Is The Gospel?” After that, we’ll move on to a series about what the gospel looks like lived out in the church, and finally another series discussing how the gospel impacts our daily lives. The heart of our mission, and the heart of the church’s mission, is the gospel. We are saved by the gospel, and it is the gospel that has the power to change hearts and lives. Our hope is that this first year of lessons will reorient the life of the church to be gospel-centered, which will empower everything we do from that point on.
When we previously lived in Matsudo, we built a lot of relationships with people in our community. As we renew our work, renewing those relationships is a high priority for us. First and foremost, we will be looking to renew our relationships with the members of the Matsudo church, by having people in our home and finding ways to engage together in addition to Sunday worship. We will also be looking to reestablish relationships with friends outside of the church. We have had a number of people who we believe were interested in the gospel, people in whom we could sense the seed of the gospel doing its work, and we would love to continue watering within those relationships especially. Of course, we will also be looking for new relationships to build in the community, as God leads us to connection with others who may be searching. All of this is on our hearts even as we consider the location of our home within the community.
Although we speak Japanese already, we have been gone from Japan for two and a half years, so at the very least our Japanese proficiency has not increased. Even when we lived in Japan before, however, there was a need for increased language proficiency. This ability impacts every facet of the work. It obviously impacts preaching and teaching, but it also impacts our ability to help lead at Matsudo, to deal with potential conflict, and so on – and that’s not to mention the areas it impacts in our daily lives. Although we don’t have plans to attend language school again, we are planning to put more time into personal study and Japanese engagement so the language comes closer and closer to being our own. We believe God will help us in this process, as we dedicate ourselves to becoming more capable in Japanese.
As you might expect, this isn’t an exhaustive list – there are other things we intend to do and focus on, but these are some of the core points we think are important as we aim to fulfill our mission and vision. Ultimately, we want this vision to glorify God – that’s the whole purpose of the vision to begin with. We ask for your prayers as we pursue these goals and others, that God will help us to bear fruit through his Spirit, and that his name will be glorified in every step. Thank you as always for your prayers!